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Chapter III

Nazism and the Rise


of Hitler
In the spring of 1945, a little eleven-year-old German boy called
Helmuth was lying in bed when he overheard his parents discussing
something in serious tones. His father, a prominent physician,
deliberated with his wife whether the time had come to kill the entire
family, or if he should commit suicide alone. His father spoke about
his fear of revenge, saying, Now the Allies will do to us what we did to
the crippled and Jews. The next day, he took Helmuth to the woods,
where they spent their last happy time together, singing old childrens
songs. Later, Helmuths father shot himself in his office. Helmuth
remembers that he saw his fathers bloody uniform being burnt in the
family fireplace. So traumatised was he by what he had overheard and
what had happened, that he reacted by refusing to eat at home for the
following nine years! He was afraid that his mother might poison him.

Nazism
the
Nazism andand
the Rise of
Hitler Rise of Hitler

Although Helmuth may not have realised all that it meant, his father
had been a Nazi and a supporter of Adolf Hitler. Many of you will
know something about the Nazis and Hitler. You probably know
of Hitlers determination to make Germany into a mighty power
and his ambition of conquering all of Europe. You may have heard
that he killed Jews. But Nazism was not one or two isolated acts. It
was a system, a structure of ideas about the world and politics. Let
us try and understand what Nazism was all about. Let us see why
Helmuths father killed himself and what the basis of his fear was.
In May 1945, Germany surrendered to the Allies. Anticipating what
was coming, Hitler, his propaganda minister Goebbels and his entire
family committed suicide collectively in his Berlin bunker in April.
At the end of the war, an International Military Tribunal at
Nuremberg was set up to prosecute Nazi war criminals for Crimes
against Peace, for War Crimes and Crimes Against Humanity.
Germanys conduct during the war, especially those actions which

New words
Allies The Allied Powers were initially led by the UK and France.
In 1941 they were joined by the USSR and USA. They fought
against the Axis Powers, namely Germany, Italy and Japan.

Fig.1 Hitler (centre) and Goebbels (left)


leaving after an official meeting, 1932.

49

came to be called Crimes Against Humanity, raised serious moral


and ethical questions and invited worldwide condemnation. What
were these acts?
Under the shadow of the Second World War, Germany had waged
a genocidal war, which resulted in the mass murder of selected
groups of innocent civilians of Europe. The number of people killed
included 6 million Jews, 200,000 Gypsies, 1 million Polish civilians,
70,000 Germans who were considered mentally and physically
disabled, besides innumerable political opponents. Nazis devised
an unprecedented means of killing people, that is, by gassing them in
various killing centres like Auschwitz. The Nuremberg Tribunal
sentenced only eleven leading Nazis to death. Many others were
imprisoned for life. The retribution did come, yet the punishment
of the Nazis was far short of the brutality and extent of their crimes.
The Allies did not want to be as harsh on defeated Germany as
they had been after the First World War.
Everyone came to feel that the rise of Nazi Germany could be
partly traced back to the German experience at the end of the
First World War.

India and the Contemporary World

What was this experinece?

50

New words
Genocidal Killing on large scale leading
to destruction of large sections of people

1 Birth of the Weimar Republic


Germany, a powerful empire in the early years of the twentieth
century, fought the First World War (1914-1918) alongside the
Austrian empire and against the Allies (England, France and Russia.)
All joined the war enthusiastically hoping to gain from a quick
victory. Little did they realise that the war would stretch on,
eventually draining Europe of all its resources. Germany made initial
gains by occupying France and Belgium. However the Allies,
strengthened by the US entry in 1917, won , defeating Germany and the
Central Powers in November 1918.
The defeat of Imperial Germany and the abdication of the emperor
gave an opportunity to parliamentary parties to recast German polity.
A National Assembly met at Weimar and established a democratic
constitution with a federal structure. Deputies were now elected to
the German Parliament or Reichstag, on the basis of equal and
universal votes cast by all adults including women.

Germany 1914
Land taken from Germany
Land under League of Nations control
Demilitarised zone

Fig.2 Germany after the


Versailles Treaty. You can see in
this map the parts of the
territory that Germany lost after
the treaty.

51

Nazism and the Rise of Hitler

This republic, however, was not received well by its own people
largely because of the terms it was forced to accept after Germanys
defeat at the end of the First World War. The peace treaty at

Versailles with the Allies was a harsh and humiliating peace. Germany lost
its overseas colonies, a tenth of its population, 13 per cent of its territories,
75 per cent of its iron and 26 per cent of its coal to France, Poland,
Denmark and Lithuania. The Allied Powers demilitarised Germany to
weaken its power. The War Guilt Clause held Germany responsible for
the war and damages the Allied countries suffered. Germany was forced
to pay compensation amounting to 6 billion. The Allied armies also
occupied the resource-rich Rhineland for much of the 1920s. Many
Germans held the new Weimar Republic responsible for not only the
defeat in the war but the disgrace at Versailles.

1.1 The Effects of the War

India and the Contemporary World

The war had a devastating impact on the entire continent both


psychologically and financially. From a continent of creditors,
Europe turned into one of debtors. Unfortunately, the infant Weimar
Republic was being made to pay for the sins of the old empire. The
republic carried the burden of war guilt and national humiliation
and was financially crippled by being forced to pay compensation.
Those who supported the Weimar Republic, mainly Socialists, Catholics
and Democrats, became easy targets of attack in the conservative
nationalist circles. They were mockingly called the November criminals.
This mindset had a major impact on the political developments of the
early 1930s, as we will soon see.
The First World War left a deep imprint on European society and
polity. Soldiers came to be placed above civilians. Politicians and
publicists laid great stress on the need for men to be aggressive, strong
and masculine. The media glorified trench life. The truth, however,
was that soldiers lived miserable lives in these trenches, trapped with
rats feeding on corpses. They faced poisonous gas and enemy shelling,
and witnessed their ranks reduce rapidly. Aggressive war propaganda
and national honour occupied centre stage in the public sphere, while
popular support grew for conservative dictatorships that had recently
come into being. Democracy was indeed a young and fragile idea,
which could not survive the instabilities of interwar Europe.

1.2 Political Radicalism and Economic Crises


The birth of the Weimar Republic coincided with the revolutionary
uprising of the Spartacist League on the pattern of the Bolshevik
Revolution in Russia. Soviets of workers and sailors were established
52

Fig.3 This is a rally organised by the radical group known as the Spartacist League.
In the winter of 1918-1919 the streets of Berlin were taken over by the people. Political demonstrations became common.

Political radicalisation was only heightened by the economic crisis


of 1923. Germany had fought the war largely on loans and had to
pay war reparations in gold. This depleted gold reserves at a time
resources were scarce. In 1923 Germany refused to pay, and the
French occupied its leading industrial area, Ruhr, to claim their coal.
Germany retaliated with passive resistance and printed paper currency
recklessly. With too much printed money in circulation, the value
of the German mark fell. In April the US dollar was equal to 24,000
marks, in July 353,000 marks, in August 4,621,000 marks and at

New words
Deplete Reduce, empty out
Reparation Make up for a wrong done

Nazism and the Rise of Hitler

in many cities. The political atmosphere in Berlin was charged with


demands for Soviet-style governance. Those opposed to this such
as the socialists, Democrats and Catholics met in Weimar to give
shape to the democratic republic. The Weimar Republic crushed the
uprising with the help of a war veterans organisation called Free
Corps. The anguished Spartacists later founded the Communist Party of
Germany. Communists and Socialists henceforth became irreconcilable
enemies and could not make common cause against Hitler. Both
revolutionaries and militant nationalists craved for radical solutions.

Fig.4 Baskets and carts being loaded at a


bank in Berlin with paper currency for wage
payment, 1923. The German mark had so
little value that vast amounts had to be used
even for small payments.

53

98,860,000 marks by December, the figure had run into trillions. As


the value of the mark collapsed, prices of goods soared. The image of
Germans carrying cartloads of currency notes to buy a loaf of bread
was widely publicised evoking worldwide sympathy. This crisis came
to be known as hyperinflation, a situation when prices rise
phenomenally high.
Eventually, the Americans intervened and bailed Germany out of
the crisis by introducing the Dawes Plan, which reworked the terms
of reparation to ease the financial burden on Germans.

1.3 The Years of Depression

India and the Contemporary World

The years between 1924 and 1928 saw some stability. Yet this was
built on sand. German investments and industrial recovery were
totally dependent on short-term loans, largely from the USA. This
support was withdrawn when the Wall Street Exchange crashed in
1929. Fearing a fall in prices, people made frantic efforts to sell their
shares. On one single day, 24 October, 13 million shares were sold.
This was the start of the Great Economic Depression. Over the next
three years, between 1929 and 1932, the national income of the USA
fell by half. Factories shut down, exports fell, farmers were badly hit
and speculators withdrew their money from the market. The effects
of this recession in the US economy were felt worldwide.

Fig.5 Homeless men queuing up for a


nights shelter, 1923.

The German economy was the worst hit by the economic crisis. By
1932, industrial production was reduced to 40 per cent of the 1929
level. Workers lost their jobs or were paid reduced wages. The number
of unemployed touched an unprecedented 6 million. On the streets
of Germany you could see men with placards around their necks
saying, Willing to do any work. Unemployed youths played cards
or simply sat at street corners, or desperately queued up at the local
employment exchange. As jobs disappeared, the youth took to
criminal activities and total despair became commonplace.
The economic crisis created deep anxieties and fears in people. The
middle classes, especially salaried employees and pensioners, saw
their savings diminish when the currency lost its value. Small
businessmen, the self-employed and retailers suffered as their
New words
Wall Street Exchange The name of the worlds biggest stock
exchange located in the USA.
54

Fig.6 Sleeping on the line. During the Great


Depression the unemployed could not hope for
either wage or shelter. On winter nights when
they wanted a shelter over their head, they
had to pay to sleep like this.

businesses got ruined. These sections of society were filled with the
fear of proletarianisation, an anxiety of being reduced to the ranks
of the working class, or worse still, the unemployed. Only organised
workers could manage to keep their heads above water, but
unemployment weakened their bargaining power. Big business was
in crisis. The large mass of peasantry was affected by a sharp fall in
agricultural prices and women, unable to fill their childrens
stomachs, were filled with a sense of deep despair.
Politically too the Weimar Republic was fragile. The Weimar
constitution had some inherent defects, which made it unstable
and vulnerable to dictatorship. One was proportional
representation. This made achieving a majority by any one party a
near impossible task, leading to a rule by coalitions. Another defect
was Article 48, which gave the President the powers to impose
emergency, suspend civil rights and rule by decree. Within its short
life, the Weimar Republic saw twenty different cabinets lasting on
an average 239 days, and a liberal use of Article 48. Yet the crisis
could not be managed. People lost confidence in the democratic
parliamentary system, which seemed to offer no solutions.
New words

Nazism and the Rise of Hitler

Proletarianisation To become impoverished to the level of


working classes.

55

2 Hitlers Rise to Power


This crisis in the economy, polity and society formed the background
to Hitlers rise to power. Born in 1889 in Austria, Hitler spent his
youth in poverty. When the First World War broke out, he enrolled
for the army, acted as a messenger in the front, became a corporal, and
earned medals for bravery. The German defeat horrified him and the
Versailles Treaty made him furious. In 1919, he joined a small group
called the German Workers Party. He subsequently took over the
organisation and renamed it the National Socialist German Workers
Party. This party came to be known as the Nazi Party.

India and the Contemporary World

In 1923, Hitler planned to seize control of Bavaria, march to Berlin


and capture power. He failed, was arrested, tried for treason, and
later released. The Nazis could not effectively mobilise popular
support till the early 1930s. It was during the Great Depression that
Nazism became a mass movement. As we have seen, after 1929, banks
collapsed and businesses shut down, workers lost their jobs and the
middle classes were threatened with destitution. In such a situation
Nazi propaganda stirred hopes of a better future. In 1928, the Nazi
Party got no more than 2. 6 per cent votes in the Reichstag the
German parliament. By 1932, it had become the largest party with
37 per cent votes.

New words

Fig.7 Hitler being greeted at the Party Congress in Nuremberg in 1938.

56

Propaganda Specific type of message


directly aimed at influencing the opinion
of people (through the use of posters, films,
speeches, etc.)

Fig.8 Nuremberg Rally, 1936.


Rallies like this were held every year. An
important aspect of these was the
demonstration of Nazi power as various
organisations paraded past Hitler, swore
loyalty and listened to his speeches.

Hitler was a powerful speaker. His passion and his words moved
people. He promised to build a strong nation, undo the injustice of
the Versailles Treaty and restore the dignity of the German people.
He promised employment for those looking for work, and a secure
future for the youth. He promised to weed out all foreign influences
and resist all foreign conspiracies against Germany.

Fig.9 Hitler addressing SA and SS columns.


Notice the sweeping and straight columns of
people. Such photographs were intended to
show the grandeur and power of the Nazi
movement

and public meetings to demonstrate the support for Hitler and instil
a sense of unity among the people. The Red banners with the
Swastika, the Nazi salute, and the ritualised rounds of applause after
the speeches were all part of this spectacle of power.
57

Nazism and the Rise of Hitler

Hitler devised a new style of politics. He understood the significance


of rituals and spectacle in mass mobilisation. Nazis held massive rallies

Nazi propaganda skilfully projected Hitler as a messiah, a saviour, as


someone who had arrived to deliver people from their distress. It is
an image that captured the imagination of a people whose sense of
dignity and pride had been shattered, and who were living in a time
of acute economic and political crises.

2.1 The Destruction of Democracy


On 30 January 1933, President Hindenburg offered the
Chancellorship, the highest position in the cabinet of ministers, to
Hitler. By now the Nazis had managed to rally the conservatives to
their cause. Having acquired power, Hitler set out to dismantle the
structures of democratic rule. A mysterious fire that broke out in
the German Parliament building in February facilitated his move.
The Fire Decree of 28 February 1933 indefinitely suspended civic
rights like freedom of speech, press and assembly that had been
guaranteed by the Weimar constitution. Then he turned on his archenemies, the Communists, most of whom were hurriedly packed off
to the newly established concentration camps. The repression of
the Communists was severe. Out of the surviving 6,808 arrest files
of Duesseldorf, a small city of half a million population, 1,440 were
those of Communists alone. They were, however, only one among
the 52 types of victims persecuted by the Nazis across the country.

India and the Contemporary World

On 3 March 1933, the famous Enabling Act was passed. This Act
established dictatorship in Germany. It gave Hitler all powers to
sideline Parliament and rule by decree. All political parties and trade
unions were banned except for the Nazi Party and its affiliates. The
state established complete control over the economy, media, army
and judiciary.
Special surveillance and security forces were created to control and
order society in ways that the Nazis wanted. Apart from the already
existing regular police in green uniform and the SA or the Storm
Troopers, these included the Gestapo (secret state police), the SS (the
protection squads), criminal police and the Security Service (SD). It
was the extra-constitutional powers of these newly organised forces
that gave the Nazi state its reputation as the most dreaded criminal
state. People could now be detained in Gestapo torture chambers,
rounded up and sent to concentration camps, deported at will or
arrested without any legal procedures. The police forces acquired
powers to rule with impunity.
58

New words
Concentration camp A camp where people
were isolated and detained without due
process of law. Typically, it was surrounded
by electrified barbed wire fences.

2.2 Reconstruction
Hitler assigned the responsibility of economic recovery to the
economist Hjalmar Schacht who aimed at full production and full
employment through a state-funded work-creation programme. This
project produced the famous German superhighways and the
peoples car, the Volkswagen.
In foreign policy also Hitler acquired quick successes. He pulled
out of the League of Nations in 1933, reoccupied the Rhineland in
1936, and integrated Austria and Germany in 1938 under the slogan,
One people, One empire, and One leader. He then went on to wrest Germanspeaking Sudentenland from Czechoslovakia, and gobbled up the
entire country. In all of this he had the unspoken support of
England, which had considered the Versailles verdict too harsh.
These quick successes at home and abroad seemed to reverse the
destiny of the country.

Fig.10 The poster announces: Your


volkswagen.
Such posters suggested that owning a car was
no longer just a dream for an ordinary worker.

Nazism and the Rise of Hitler

Hitler did not stop here. Schacht had advised Hitler against investing
hugely in rearmament as the state still ran on deficit financing.
Cautious people, however, had no place in Nazi Germany. Schacht
had to leave. Hitler chose war as the way out of the approaching

Fig.11 Expansion of Nazi power: Europe 1942.

59

economic crisis. Resources were to be accumulated through


expansion of territory. In September 1939, Germany invaded
Poland. This started a war with France and England. In September
1940, a Tripartite Pact was signed between Germany, Italy and
Japan, strengthening Hitlers claim to international power. Puppet
regimes, supportive of Nazi Germany, were installed in a large
part of Europe. By the end of 1940, Hitler was at the pinnacle of
his power.
Hitler now moved to achieve his long-term aim of conquering
Eastern Europe. He wanted to ensure food supplies and living space
for Germans. He attacked the Soviet Union in June 1941. In this
historic blunder Hitler exposed the German western front to British
aerial bombing and the eastern front to the powerful Soviet armies.
The Soviet Red Army inflicted a crushing and humiliating defeat
on Germany at Stalingrad. After this the Soviet Red Army
hounded out the retreating German soldiers until they reached the
heart of Berlin, establishing Soviet hegemony over the entire Eastern
Europe for half a century thereafter.

India and the Contemporary World

Meanwhile, the USA had resisted involvement in the war. It was


unwilling to once again face all the economic problems that the
First World War had caused. But it could not stay out of the war
for long. Japan was expanding its power in the east. It had occupied
French Indo-China and was planning attacks on US naval bases in
the Pacific. When Japan extended its support to Hitler and bombed
the US base at Pearl Harbor, the US entered the Second World
War. The war ended in May 1945 with Hitlers defeat and the US
dropping of the atom bomb on Hiroshima in Japan.
From this brief account of what happened in the Second World
War, we now return to Helmuth and his fathers story, a story of
Nazi criminality during the war.

Fig.12 Newspapers in India track the


developments in Germany.

60

3 The Nazi Worldview

Nazi ideology was synonymous with Hitlers worldview. According


to this there was no equality between people, but only a racial
hierarchy. In this view blond, blue-eyed, Nordic German Aryans
were at the top, while Jews were located at the lowest rung. They
came to be regarded as an anti-race, the arch-enemies of the Aryans.
All other coloured people were placed in between depending upon
their external features. Hitlers racism borrowed from thinkers like
Charles Darwin and Herbert Spencer. Darwin was a natural scientist
who tried to explain the creation of plants and animals through the
concept of evolution and natural selection. Herbert Spencer later
added the idea of survival of the fittest. According to this idea, only
those species survived on earth that could adapt themselves to
changing climatic conditions. We should bear in mind that Darwin
never advocated human intervention in what he thought was a purely
natural process of selection. However, his ideas were used by racist
thinkers and politicians to justify imperial rule over conquered
peoples. The Nazi argument was simple: the strongest race would
survive and the weak ones would perish. The Aryan race was the
finest. It had to retain its purity, become stronger and dominate the
world.
The other aspect of Hitlers ideology related to the geopolitical
concept of Lebensraum, or living space. He believed that new territories
had to be acquired for settlement. This would enhance the area of
the mother country, while enabling the settlers on new lands to retain
an intimate link with the place of their origin. It would also enhance
the material resources and power of the German nation.
Hitler intended to extend German boundaries by moving eastwards,
to concentrate all Germans geographically in one place. Poland became
the laboratory for this experimentation.

Source A
For this earth is not allotted to anyone
nor is it presented to anyone as a gift. It
is awarded by providence to people who
in their hearts have the courage to
conquer it, the strength to preserve it,
and the industry to put it to the plough
The primary right of this world is the right
to life, so far as one possesses the
strength for this. Hence on the basis of
this right a vigorous nation will always
find ways of adapting its territory to its
population size.
Hitler, Secret Book, ed. Telford Taylor .

Source B
In an era when the earth is gradually
being divided up among states, some of
which embrace almost entire continents,
we cannot speak of a world power in
connection with a formation whose
political mother country is limited to the
absurd area of five hundred kilometers.
Hitler, Mein Kampf, p. 644.

Activity
Read Sources A and B
! What do they tell you about Hitlers
imperial ambition?
! What do you think Mahatma Gandhi would
have said to Hitler about these ideas?

New words

3.1 Establishment of the Racial State


Once in power, the Nazis quickly began to implement their dream
of creating an exclusive racial community of pure Germans by
physically eliminating all those who were seen as undesirable in the

Nordic German Aryans One branch of


those classified as Aryans. They lived in
north European countries and had German
or related origin.
61

Nazism and the Rise of Hitler

The crimes that Nazis committed were linked to a system of belief


and a set of practices.

extended empire. Nazis wanted only a society of pure and healthy


Nordic Aryans. They alone were considered desirable. Only they
were seen as worthy of prospering and multiplying against all others
who were classed as undesirable. This meant that even those Germans
who were seen as impure or abnormal had no right to exist. Under
the Euthanasia Programme, Helmuths father along with other Nazi
officials had condemned to death many Germans who were considered
mentally or physically unfit.
Jews were not the only community classified as undesirable. There
were others. Many Gypsies and blacks living in Nazi Germany were
considered as racial inferiors who threatened the biological purity
of the superior Aryan race. They were widely persecuted. Even
Russians and Poles were considered subhuman, and hence undeserving
of any humanity. When Germany occupied Poland and parts of
Russia, captured civilians were forced to work as slave labour. Many
of them died simply through hard work and starvation.

Fig.13 Police escorting gypsies who are


being deported to Auschwitz, 1943-1944.

India and the Contemporary World

Jews remained the worst sufferers in Nazi Germany. Nazi hatred of


Jews had a precursor in the traditional Christian hostility towards
Jews. They had been stereotyped as killers of Christ and
usurers.Until medieval times Jews were barred from owning land.
They survived mainly through trade and moneylending. They lived
in separately marked areas called ghettos. They were often persecuted
through periodic organised violence, and expulsion from the land.
However, Hitlers hatred of Jews was based on pseudoscientific
theories of race, which held that conversion was no solution to
the Jewish problem. It could be solved only through their
total elimination.
From 1933 to 1938 the Nazis terrorised, pauperised and segregated
the Jews, compelling them to leave the country. The next phase,
1939-1945, aimed at concentrating them in certain areas and eventually
killing them in gas chambers in Poland.

3.2 The Racial Utopia


Under the shadow of war, the Nazis proceeded to realise their
murderous, racial ideal. Genocide and war became two sides of the
same coin. Occupied Poland was divided up. Much of north-western
Poland was annexed to Germany. Poles were forced to leave their
homes and properties behind to be occupied by ethnic Germans
brought in from occupied Europe. Poles were then herded like
62

New words
Gypsy The groups that were classified as
gypsy had their own community identity.
Sinti and Roma were two such communities.
Many of them traced their origin to India.
Pauperised Reduce to absolute poverty
Persecution Systematic, organised
punishment of those belonging to a group
or religion
Usurers Moneylenders charging excessive
interest; often used as a term of abuse

Activity
See the next two pages and write briefly:
! What does citizenship mean to you? Look at
Chapters I and 3 and write 200 words on how
the French Revolution and Nazism defined
citizenship.
! What did the Nuremberg Laws mean to the
undesirables in Nazi Germany? What other
legal measures were taken against them to
make them feel unwanted?

Nazism and the Rise of Hitler

cattle in the other part called the General Government, the


destination of all undesirables of the empire. Members of the Polish
intelligentsia were murdered in large numbers in order to keep the
entire people intellectually and spiritually servile. Polish children
who looked like Aryans were forcibly snatched from their mothers
and examined by race experts. If they passed the race tests they
were raised in German families and if not, they were deposited in
orphanages where most perished. With some of the largest ghettos
and gas chambers, the General Government also served as the killing
fields for the Jews.

Fig.14 This is one of the freight cars used to deport Jews to the death chambers.

63

STEPS TO DEATH
Stage 1: Exclusion

1933-1939

YOU HAVE NO RIGHT TO LIVE AMONG US AS CITIZENS


The Nuremberg Laws of citizenship of September 1935:
1. Only Persons of German or related blood would henceforth be German
citizens enjoying the protection of the German empire.
2. Marriages between Jews and Germans were forbidden.
3. Extramarital relations between Jews and Germans became a crime.
4. Jews were forbidden to fly the national flag.
Other legal measures included:
Boycott of Jewish businesses
Expulsion from government services
Forced selling and confiscation of their properties
Besides, Jewish properties were vandalised and looted, houses attacked,
synagogues burnt and men arrested in a pogrom in November. 1938,
remembered as the night of broken glass

Fig.16 Park bench announces: FOR ARYANS ONLY

New words

India and the Contemporary World

Synagogues Place of worship for people


of Jewish faith

Fig.15 The sign declares that


this North Sea bathing resort is
free of Jews.

Stage 2: Ghettoisation

1940 - 1944

YOU HAVE NO RIGHT TO LIVE AMONG US

Fig.17 This is all I have to sell.


Men and women were left with nothing to survive
in the ghettos.

From September 1941, all Jews had to wear a yellow Star of David on their breasts. This identity mark was stamped on their passport,
all legal documents and houses. They were kept in Jewish houses in Germany, and in ghettos like Lodz and Warsaw in the east. These
became sites of extreme misery and poverty. Jews had to surrender all their wealth before they entered a ghetto. Soon the ghettos
were brimming with hunger, starvation and disease due to deprivation and poor hygiene.

64

Annihilation 1941 onwards:

Stage 3:
YOU HAVE NO RIGHT TO LIVE

Fig.18 Killed while trying to escape. The


concentration camps were enclosed with live wires.

Fig.19 Piles of clothes outside the gas chamber.

Nazism and the Rise of Hitler

Jews from Jewish houses, concentration camps and ghettos from different parts of Europe were brought to death factories by
goods trains. In Poland and elsewhere in the east, most notably Belzek, Auschwitz, Sobibor, Treblinka, Chelmno and Majdanek,
they were charred in gas chambers. Mass killings took place within minutes with scientific precision.

Fig.20 A Concentration Camp.

Fig.21 A concentration camp.


A camera can make a death
camp look beautiful.

Fig.22 Shoes taken away from prisoners before


the Final Solution.

65

4 Youth in Nazi Germany


Hitler was fanatically interested in the youth of the country. He felt
that a strong Nazi society could be established only by teaching children
Nazi ideology. This required a control over the child both inside and
outside school.
What happened in schools under Nazism? All schools were cleansed
and purified. This meant that teachers who were Jews or seen as
politically unreliable were dismissed. Children were first segregated:
Germans and Jews could not sit together or play together.
Subsequently, undesirable children Jews, the physically handicapped,
Gypsies were thrown out of schools. And finally in the 1940s, they
were taken to the gas chambers.

Fig.23 Classroom scene depicting a lesson


on racial anti-Semitism.
From Der Giftpilz (The Poison Mushroom) by
Ernst Hiemer (Nuremberg: der Sturmer, 1938),
p.7. Caption reads: The Jewish nose is bent at
its point. It looks like the number six.

India and the Contemporary World

Good German children were subjected to a process of Nazi schooling,


a prolonged period of ideological training. School textbooks were
rewritten. Racial science was introduced to justify Nazi ideas of race.
Stereotypes about Jews were popularised even through maths classes.
Children were taught to be loyal and submissive, hate Jews, and worship
Hitler. Even the function of sports was to nurture a spirit of violence
and aggression among children. Hitler believed that boxing could make
children iron hearted, strong and masculine.
Youth organisations were made responsible for educating German
youth in the the spirit of National Socialism. Ten-year-olds had to
enter Jungvolk. At 14, all boys had to join the Nazi youth organisation
Hitler Youth where they learnt to worship war, glorify aggression
and violence, condemn democracy, and hate Jews, communists, Gypsies
and all those categorised as undesirable. After a period of rigorous
ideological and physical training they joined the Labour Service, usually
at the age of 18. Then they had to serve in the armed forces and enter
one of the Nazi organisations.
The Youth League of the Nazis was founded in 1922. Four years later
it was renamed Hitler Youth. To unify the youth movement under
Nazi control, all other youth organisations were systematically dissolved
and finally banned.

Fig.24 Jewish teacher and Jewish pupils


expelled from school under the jeers of
classmates.
From Trau keinem jud auf gruner Heid: Ein
Bilderbuch fur Gross und Keom (Trust No
Jew on the Green Heath: a Picture Book for
Big and Little), By Elvira Bauer (Nuremberg:
Der Sturmer, 1936).

Activity
If you were a student sitting in one of these
classes, how would you have felt towards
Jews?

New words
Jungvolk Nazi youth groups for children below 14 years of age.
66

Have you ever thought of the stereotypes of


other communities that people around you
believe in? How have they acquired them?

Source: C
All boys between the ages of six and ten went through a
preliminary training in Nazi ideology. At the end of the training
they had to take the following oath of loyalty to Hitler:
In the presence of this blood banner which represents our
Fuhrer I swear to devote all my energies and my strength to
the saviour of our country, Adolf Hitler. I am willing and ready to
give up my life for him, so help me God.
From W. Shirer, The Rise and Fall of the Third Reich

Source: D
Robert Lay, head of the German Labour Front, said:
We start when the child is three years old. As soon as he even
starts to think, he is given a little flag to wave. Then comes
school, the Hitler Youth, military service. But when all this is
over, we dont let go of anyone. The labour front takes hold of
them, and keeps hold until they go to the grave, whether they
like it or not.

Fig.27 Jewish children arriving at a death


factory to be gassed

Activity
Look at Figs. 23, 24, and 27. Imagine yourself
Fig.26 A German-blooded
infant with his mother being
brought from occupied Europe
to Annexed Poland for
settlement.

to be a Jew or a Pole in Nazi Germany. It is


September 1941, and the law forcing Jews to

Nazism and the Rise of Hitler

Fig.25 Desirable children that


Hitler wanted to see multiplied.

wear the Star of David has just been declared.


Write an account of one day in your life.

4.1 The Nazi Cult of Motherhood


Children in Nazi Germany were repeatedly told that women were
radically different from men. The fight for equal rights for men
and women that had become part of democratic struggles everywhere
was wrong and it would destroy society. While boys were taught
to be aggressive, masculine and steel hearted, girls were told that
they had to become good mothers and rear pure-blooded Aryan
children. Girls had to maintain the purity of the race, distance
67

themselves from Jews, look after the home, and teach their
children Nazi values. They had to be the bearers of the Aryan
culture and race.
In 1933 Hitler said: In my state the mother is the most important
citizen. But in Nazi Germany all mothers were not treated equally.
Women who bore racially undesirable children were punished
and those who produced racially desirable children were awarded.
They were given favoured treatment in hospitals and were also
entitled to concessions in shops and on theatre tickets and railway
fares. To encourage women to produce many children, Honour
Crosses were awarded. A bronze cross was given for four children,
silver for six and gold for eight or more.
All Aryan women who deviated from the prescribed code of
conduct were publicly condemned, and severely punished. Those
who maintained contact with Jews, Poles and Russians were
paraded through the town with shaved heads, blackened faces and
placards hanging around their necks announcing I have sullied
the honour of the nation. Many received jail sentences and lost
civic honour as well as their husbands and families for this
criminal offence.

India and the Contemporary World

4.2. The Art of Propaganda


The Nazi regime used language and media with care, and often to
great effect. The terms they coined to describe their various
practices are not only deceptive. They are chilling. Nazis never
used the words kill or murder in their official communications.
Mass killings were termed special treatment, final solution (for the Jews),
euthanasia (for the disabled), selection and disinfections. Evacuation
meant deporting people to gas chambers. Do you know what the
gas chambers were called? They were labelled disinfection-areas,
and looked like bathrooms equipped with fake showerheads.
Media was carefully used to win support for the regime and
popularise its worldview. Nazi ideas were spread through visual
images, films, radio, posters, catchy slogans and leaflets. In posters,
groups identified as the enemies of Germans were stereotyped,
mocked, abused and described as evil. Socialists and liberals were
represented as weak and degenerate. They were attacked as
malicious foreign agents. Propaganda films were made to create
hatred for Je ws. The most infamous film was The Eternal Jew.
Orthodox Jews were stereotyped and marked. They were shown
68

Source E
In an address to women at the
Nuremberg P arty Rally, 8 September
1934, Hitler said:
We do not consider it correct for the
woman to interfere in the world of the
man, in his main sphere. We consider it
natural that these two worlds remain
distinctWhat the man gives in courage
on the battlefield, the woman gives in
eternal self-sacrifice, in eternal pain and
suffering. Every child that women bring
to the world is a battle, a battle waged
for the existence of her people.

Source F
Hitler at the Nuremberg Party Rally, 8 September 1934, also
said:
The woman is the most stable element in the preservation
of a folkshe has the most unerring sense of everything that
is important to not let a race disappear because it is her
children who would be affected by all this suffering in the
first placeThat is why we have integrated the woman in
the struggle of the racial community just as nature and
providence have determined so.

The Nazis made equal efforts to appeal to all the different sections of
the population. They sought to win their support by suggesting that
Nazis alone could solve all their problems.

Fig.28 A Nazi poster attacking Jews.


Caption above reads: Money is the God of Jews. In order to earn
money he commits the greatest crimes. He does not rest, until he can
sit on a big sack of money, until he has become the king of money.

Activity
How would you have reacted to Hilters ideas
if you were:
! A Jewish woman
! A non-Jewish German woman

Nazism and the Rise of Hitler

with flowing beards wearing kaftans, whereas in reality it was


difficult to distinguish German Jews by their outward appearance
because they were a highly assimilated community. They were
referred to as vermin, rats and pests. Their movements were compared
to those of rodents. Nazism worked on the minds of the people,
tapped their emotions, and turned their hatred and anger at those
marked as undesirable.

Activity
What do you think this poster is trying to depict?

69

GERMAN FARMER
YOU BELONG TO HITLER!
WHY?
The German farmer stands in between two great dangers
today:
The one danger American economic system
Big Capitalism!
The other is the Marxist economic system of Bolshevism.
Big Capitalism and Bolshevism work hand in hand:
they are born of Jewish thought
and serve the master plan of world Jewery.
Who alone can rescue the farmer from these dangers?

NATIONAL SOCIALISM.

From: a Nazi leaflet, 1932.


Fig.29 The leaflet shows how the Nazis appealed to the peasants.

Activity

Fig.30 A Nazi party poster of the 1920s. It


asks workers to vote for Hitler, the frontline
soldier.

Some important dates

Look at Figs. 29 and 30 and answer the following:

August 1, 1914
First World War begins.

What do they tell us about Nazi propaganda? How are the Nazis

November 9, 1918
Germany capitulates, ending the war.

trying to mobilise different sections of the population?

November 9, 1918
Proclamation of the Weimar Republic.

India and the Contemporary World

June 28, 1919


Treaty of Versailles.
January 30, 1933
Hitler becomes Chancellor of Germany.
September 1, 1939
Germany invades Poland. Beginning of the
Second World War.
June 22, 1941
Germany invades the USSR.
June 23,1941
Mass murder of the Jews begins.
December 8 1941
The United States joins Second World War.
January 27,1945
Soviet troops liberate Auschwitz.
May 8, 1945
Allied victory in Europe.

70

5 Ordinary People and the Crimes Against Humanity


How did the common people react to Nazism?
Many saw the world through Nazi eyes, and spoke their mind in
Nazi language. They felt hatred and anger surge inside them when
they saw someone who looked like a Jew. They marked the houses
of Jews and reported suspicious neighbours. They genuinely believed
Nazism would bring prosperity and improve general well-being.
But not every German was a Nazi. Many organised active resistance
to Nazism, braving police repression and death. The large majority
of Germans, however, were passive onlookers and apathetic witnesses.
They were too scared to act, to differ, to protest. They preferred to
look away. Pastor Niemoeller, a resistance fighter, observed an
absence of protest, an uncanny silence, amongst ordinary Germans
in the face of brutal and organised crimes committed against people
in the Nazi empire. He wrote movingly about this silence:

First they came for the Communists,


Well, I was not a Communist
So I said nothing.
Then they came for the Social Democrats,
Well, I was not a Social Democrat

Box 1

So I did nothing,

Was the lack of concern for Nazi victims only


Rees who interviewed people from diverse

But I was not a trade unionist.

backgrounds for his recent documentary,

Nazism and the Rise of Hitler

because of the Terror? No, says Lawrence

Then they came for the trade unionists,

The Nazis: A Warning from History.

And then they came for the Jews,


But I was not a Jew so I did little.
Then when they came for me,
There was no one left who could stand up for me.

Erna Kranz, an ordinary German teenager in


the1930s and a grandmother now, said to
Rees:
1930s offered a glimmer of hope, not just for
the unemployed but for everybody for we all
felt downtrodden. From my own experience I

Activity

could say salaries increased and Germany

Why does Erna Kranz say, I could only say for myself? How do you

purpose. I could only say for myself, I thought

view her opinion?

it was a good time. I liked it.

seemed to have regained its sense of

71

What Jews felt in Nazi Germany is a different story altogether.


Charlotte Beradt secretly recorded peoples dreams in her diary and
later published them in a highly disconcerting book called the Third
Reich of Dreams. She describes how Jews themselves began believing in
the Nazi stereotypes about them. They dreamt of their hooked noses,
black hair and eyes, Jewish looks and body movements. The
stereotypical images publicised in the Nazi press haunted the Jews.
They troubled them even in their dreams. Jews died many deaths
even before they reached the gas chamber.

5.1 Knowledge about the Holocaust

India and the Contemporary World

Information about Nazi practices had trickled out of Germany


during the last years of the regime. But it was only after the war
ended and Germany was defeated that the world came to realise the
horrors of what had happened. While the Germans were preoccupied
with their own plight as a defeated nation emerging out of the rubble,
the Jews wanted the world to remember the atrocities and sufferings
they had endured during the Nazi killing operations also called the
Holocaust. At its height, a ghetto inhabitant had said to another that
he wanted to outlive the war just for half an hour. Presumably he
meant that he wanted to be able to tell the world about what had
happened in Nazi Germany. This indomitable spirit to bear witness
and to preserve the documents can be seen in many ghetto and camp
inhabitants who wrote diaries, kept notebooks, and created archives.
On the other hand when the war seemed lost, the Nazi leadership
distributed petrol to its functionaries to destroy all incriminating
evidence available in offices.
Yet the history and the memory of the Holocaust live on in memoirs,
fiction, documentaries, poetry, memorials and museums in many
parts of the world today. These are a tribute to those who resisted it,
an embarrassing reminder to those who collaborated, and a warning
to those who watched in silence.

72

Fig.31 Inhabitants of the Warsaw ghetto


collected documents and placed them in three
milk cans along with other containers. As
destruction seemed imminent, these containers
were buried in the cellars of buildings in 1943.
This can was discovered in 1950.

Fig.32 Denmark secretly rescued their Jews


from Germany. This is one of the boats used
for the purpose.

Box 2

Mahatma Gandhi writes to Hitler


LETTER TO ADOLF HITLER
AS AT WARDHA, C. P., INDIA,
July 23, 1939
HERR HITLER
BERLIN
GERMANY
DEAR FRIEND,
Friends have been urging me to write to you for the sake of
humanity. But I have resisted their request, because of the feeling that
any letter from me would be an impertinence. Something tells me that
I must not calculate and that I must make my appeal for whatever it
may be worth.
It is quite clear that you are today the one person in the world
who can prevent a war which may reduce humanity to the savage
state.
Must you pay that price for an object however worthy it may appear
to you to be? Will you listen to the appeal of one who has deliberately
shunned the method of war not without considerable success?
Anyway
I anticipate your forgiveness, if I have erred in writing to you.
I remain,
Your sincere friend,
M. K. GANDHI
THE COLLECTED WORKS OF MAHATMA GANDHI
VOL. 76.

Nazism and the Rise of Hitler

LETTER TO ADOLF HITLER


WARDHA,
December 24, 1940
We have found in non-violence a force which, if organised, can without
doubt match itself against a combination of all the most violent forces in
the world. In non-violent technique, as I have said, there is no such thing
as defeat. It is all do or die without killing or hurting. It can be used
practically without money and obviously without the aid of science of
destruction which you have brought to such perfection. It is a marvel to
me that you do not see that it is nobodys monopoly. If not the British,
some other power will certainly improve upon your method and beat you
with your own weapon. You are leaving no legacy to your people of
which they would feel proud. They cannot take pride in a recital of cruel
deed, however skilfully planned. I, therefore, appeal to you in the name
of humanity to stop the war.
I am,
Your sincere friend,
M. K. GANDHI

THE COLLECTED WORKS OF MAHATMA GANDHI


VOL. 79.

73

Activities

as a schoolchild in Nazi Germany

as a Jewish survivor of a concentration camp

as a political opponent of the Nazi regime

2. Imagine that you are Helmuth. You have had many Jewish friends in school
and do not believe that Jews are bad. Write a paragraph on what you would
say to your father.

Questions

1. Describe the problems faced by the Weimar Republic.


2. Discuss why Nazism became popular in Germany by 1930.
3. What are the peculiar features of Nazi thinking?

4. Explain why Nazi propaganda was effective in creating a hatred for Jews.
5. Explain what role women had in Nazi society. Return to Chapter 1 on the
French Revolution. Write a paragraph comparing and contrasting the role of
women in the two periods.

India and the Contemporary World

6. In what ways did the Nazi state seek to establish total control over its people ?

74

Activities

1. Write a one page history of Germany